Mar 15, 2021
Dancing with the Stars RECAP: Ab-solutely Terrifying (S19:W7)
It’s Halloween on Dancing With the Stars! You know what that means, kids? The holiday is the overreaching gimmick this week, so there are NO GUEST JUDGES! (And the audience rejoices.)
Instead, the opening number begins when Mike Waltrip as Lurch (the perfect word for his dancing style) admits Derek Hough into a haunted mansion where ghoulish couples are dancing around to the soothing refrain “Off With His Head.” At the end, the eight remaining contestants open a coffin, revealing the long-missing head judge, Len Goodman. The St. Bernards have finally tracked him down. Quick, somebody chain him to his chair! He must not ever leave again!
With only eight people left in the competition, and no extraneous guest judges to fawn over, the producers are feeling the need to add a little more filler. That’s bad news for 76-year-old comedian Tommy Chong, who has been asked to learn a second “team freestyle” dance in addition to his normally assigned Quickstep this week. The poor septuagenarian needs a lot of breaks. He needs a cup of tea. He needs to rest his legs. He needs to stop bouncing. His pro, Peta, looks like she wants to throttle him, but… whadya gonna do? He’s old—the oldest competitor ever to last this long in the competition. Ah, the challenges of being a record-breaker.
Their Quickstep, charmingly danced to “That Old Black Magic,” really goes about as well as anybody could have asked for. Tommy is a magician—“Tommy the Great”—and Peta is his young assistant as they bounce around the floor. Surprisingly, this fast dance is pretty good for Tommy because he comes across as elegant and poised, and he keeps up with the steps quite well… for the first minute or so. Those last ten seconds or so are pretty dire, though, and Tommy ends up just cheerfully ignoring the final steps as he runs off the floor with Peta to the judges.
Absolutely nobody gives him a hard time about it. They are all too stunned that he’s still managing to keep up at all.
Len: You are easy on the eyes. You are very watchable.
Julianne: Tommy, you did it again!
Bruno: The seasoned magician still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve!
Carrie Ann: Everything you did, you executed well. You just got off tempo a couple of times.
Judges’ total score: 28
Sevens from everyone. That appears to be his ceiling, and nobody minds, seven weeks into the season, because… he’s 76!
Welcome to Team Whine. Back to the Future‘s Lea Thompson is surrounded by younger female competitors who are outscoring her technically, so it’s time to break out the secret weapon—tears. Lea cries because she can’t get her dance right, and Artem pouts because the judges are being mean to him, no matter who he’s choreographing. Home viewers, for just a few minutes of your time, you can give this team new hope and inspiration. Won’t you please vote now?
They’ve got the Paso Double, set to “Necessary Evil” by Nikki Yanofsky, who is singing live. (Gotta wonder if she’s miffed about Len’s reappearance. “Why don’t I get to be a guest judge?!”) It’s clean and precise, and Lea’s long legs look great, but… it’s also a bit boring.
Julianne: You guys really need to give yourselves a break. Lea, we like you! We like you, already!
Bruno: Efficient, accurate, well placed, great shapes, and just the right touch of evil. (ends up knocking Julianne out of her chair as he throws himself on the floor.)
Carrie Ann: Doesn’t get to talk. We have to administer emergency aid to Bruno and Julianne instead.
Len: It was very clean and very precise. It lacked a bit of chemistry.
Total judges’ score: 34
Julianne and Bruno give her nines so she’ll stop whimpering.
Zany hi-jinks ensue as some nameless troupe member attempts to get some screen time and attention by hiding in a fake refrigerator and scaring the shit out of everybody. Lame. Juvenile. Still better than a guest judge.
Derek Hough feels there’s been a breakthrough; teen YouTube star Bethany Mota has started looking and behaving like an adult in her dances. #TakethatSadie! Now that Alfonso is injured and Lea’s self-destructing under waves of extreme insecurity, Derek can just taste that sixth mirror-ball trophy, so he works Bethany especially hard, going over the same steps repeatedly.
It’s effective. Their Paso Double, set to “Run Boy Run,” features Bethany as Frankenstein’s Bride, backed by a troupe of shirtless men in red hoods, including Derek. Once all the extras are planted behind drum sets, Derek and Bethany stalk each other in an intense, moody set that has the judges on their feet.
Bruno: A Paso Double painted on a grand, operatic scale.
Carrie Ann: You are fascinating.
Len: It was a spectacular number. It had everything going on. (descends into crotchety grumbles about too many props, bells and whistles)
Julianne: We should steal that (choreography) for our tour next year.
Total judges’ score: 39
Len gave them the nine: he doesn’t love props.
Tom Bergeron cheerfully informs us that soap opera hunk Antonio Sabato, Jr., tied for last place last week; the vultures are finally beginning to circle this stiff. Cheryl tells him that at the end of his dance this week, Antonio will disappear—back to his native Italy, presumably. Way to telegraph the show’s end, I guess. Spoiler alert. Or something. Antonio, in a last-ditch, desperate attempt at brown-nosing, dedicates this dance to Len Goodman. May we have some tens, pretty please? OK, how about some eights? No? Can I at least score higher than Tommy?
They’ve got the Viennese Waltz, set to “I Put a Spell On You,” with Cheryl as an enchantress at her cauldron. She’s cast a charm that makes Antonio look even more dead in the eyes than usual, if that’s possible. He’s got his shirt on this week—another terrible omen for a man whose abs are his primary asset.
Carrie Ann: I don’t think the spell worked.
Len: It was OK, but it wasn’t what I was hoping I could say to you.
Julianne: I want to see you improve.
Bruno: No time for your comments. We don’t want you falling off your chair again!
Antonio: (sulkily) I’m doing this for the fans. Vote for me! For the love of God, vote for me! I’m about to be outlasted by a flat-footed, talentless racecar driver and a stoned, geriatric comedian!
Total judges’ score: 27
Antonio can only hope to be followed by somebody even worse. Fortunately for him, Michael is up next.
NASCAR racer Michael Waltrip can’t believe he’s made it to week seven. Neither can anybody else, including his hapless pro partner Emma, who has to try to coax a Jive out of this hopeless numbskull. He can’t. And I mean, HE CAN’T. Because it’s steps. Lots of them. Emma’s about to cry. Please, America, won’t you relieve them of this humiliation and pressure? Vote for somebody else—ANYBODY else—now. Like Lea Thompson, who’s still off somewhere being frantic and insecure.
The less said about their “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the better. All Emma can do is enlist a troupe of backup dancers to steal focus and dance an energetic Jive all by herself. Michael just plods along behind and gives a little support to the occasional lift. Michael makes Tommy’s tired, aging footwork look inspired and crisp by comparison. This is getting really painful to sit through each week.
Len: I am equally surprised that you’ve made it to week seven. In driving terms, you’re running on empty now.
Julianne: In the theme of Halloween, that was kind of a nightmare.
Bruno: The thing is, there wasn’t any Jive.
Carrie Ann: This was a great freestyle… but it was supposed to be a Jive.
Judges’ total score: 20
Janel Parrish hasn’t forgotten how much good will Alfonso managed to raise by bringing up his past with the Carlton; now she wants to do a Viennese Waltz to the theme song to “Pretty Little Liars.” She also wants to kill Val and spends most of their package contemplating the best way to do that. I guess the romance is over. Thank God.
Val peers into a haunted mansion; Janel, a sorceress dressed mostly in vines and a cape, coaxes him in and hypnotizes him with the waltz—before whacking him with a blunt object. Goodbye, contrived showmance! I like this much better!
Julianne: I think the Halloween theme got away from you a little bit.
Bruno: (Nearly smacks Julianne in the face while discussing arm moves. She may want to move her chair.)
Carrie Ann: The one thing I thought you did well was the fluidity of motion.
Len: Glad to have you back, Len! Now, keep your mouth shut, because we’ve run out of time again! Not only do we not have enough time for four judges to talk, apparently we don’t really have enough space for them to sit without hurting each other. Producers, please fire somebody. At this point, I don’t even care who. Just… don’t replace him or her with a guest judge.
Judges’ total score: 31
Note that Len gave them a seven; he did not feel that they did a Viennese Waltz.
Fresh Prince sidekick Alfonso Ribeiro and his pro Witney are both still nursing injuries. Witney, in particular, has turned Alfonso into her accidental punching bag as rehearsal footage shows her bonking him in the nose, the jaw, and finally, his privates. Sweet little Witney—didn’t figure her to be the torture chamber dominatrix type!
It’s all light and grace when they go into their Rumba, featuring Ella Henderson singing “Ghost.” They are both dressed in white, and as she flits away from him at the end we are left with the impression that he’s her widower; her ghost has returned for one final, tender, sensual dance before disappearing forever.
Bruno: Captivating, involving, convincing, full of content and full of intention.
Carrie Ann: The magic is happening.
Len: It was a proper Rhumba!
Julianne: It’s her turn to shut up.
Judges’ total score: 36
Alfonso, in his own shameless bid to encourage votes, would like to announce that he and his wife have decided to get their son a brother or sister for his first birthday. I hope that kick in the nuts doesn’t foil his plans. He wants to thank all the fans—now get those phones out and stop voting for Michael!
As if pro Mark Ballas didn’t have enough troubles with Sadie Robertson‘s family inspecting his costumes and choreography, now they have invaded his rehearsal space. The enormous Duck Dynasty filming crew has packed into their dance hall to catch every single instant of their precious baby’s corruption by Hollywood… and, of course, this is happening during Halloween week. We all know how the militant Christian right loves Halloween. Mark immediately has choreographer’s block, if that’s actually a thing. How DO you dance with an underage fundamentalist Christian during Halloween Week on Dancing With the Stars?
You eat her brains, of course. Sadie is an innocent child, complete with teddy bear, who has wandered into a cemetery at night, and all of a sudden she is surrounded by zombies. One of them, Mark, for whatever reason, wants to do the Paso Double with her. Then he suddenly gives her a long red skirt. And then Mark and all his zombie buddies eat her. And the Robertson clan, sitting in the audience, appear to be perfectly OK with all of this, just as long as they get to stay on TV.
Carrie Ann: You were so cute! I just love watching you!
Len: The theme of the whole thing got in the way of the dance for me.
Julianne: Mark, you’ve never looked better.
Bruno: Does not get to talk.
Total judges’ score: 30
So that’s everybody… let’s get on to the results… Oh, no! Apparently, Tom kept shushing the judges so they could throw in some special Halloween Filler! The cast has been divided in two: Team Itsy Bitsy and Team Creepy. They have to dance another spooky-themed group freestyle, and everybody on a given team will get the same score. (Michael Waltrip’s eyes must light up as he imagines getting the same score for a dance as Bethany Mota.)
Remember elementary school P.E. Classes, where the cool kids got to be Team Captains and choose who got to play on each team? Remember how hard that sucked? Well, guess what. Dancing With the Stars has decided to allow all of us to relive that excruciating experience as we go back to the moments that immediately followed last week’s elimination. The moment Jonathan Bennett leaves the house, Team Captains Bethany and Alfonso make their picks. Bethany snaps up Janel right off the bat, while Alfonso ingratiates himself to the Duck Dynasty crowd by choosing Sadie. Bethany tries to calm Lea’s anxiety attacks by taking her next; Alfonso, feeling the need to add a little testosterone to his lineup, picks Antonio. Tommy and Michael sit there like those kids who used to eat crayons and cry, but they’ve got to go somewhere… For reasons that defy explanation, Bethany has decided that it’s better to be clueless and talentless than old and tired, so she takes Michael. Alfonso yelps out Tommy’s name immediately afterward like he always meant to do that.
And now that you are all teamed up, let’s just fill half of you with the spectre of encroaching doom. You see, Derek Hough is on Team Itsy Bitsy. Derek Hough has never lost a Team Freestyle. Derek Hough apparently farts glitter, rainbows, and mirror-ball trophies. Sucks to be on Team Creepy right about now. Especially since everybody on Team Itsy Bitsy is also safe this week. Including Michael Waltrip. Dammit! Stop voting for him! STOP IT! He didn’t even go to the last rehearsal!
Team Itsy Bitsy has decided to be a little pack of female spiders, prepared to mate with and devour their males. They are crisp, creepy, in almost perfect sync, and they’ve stuck Michael in the back where nobody can see him. After each team does a mini-solo (once again, Emma does most of the dancing while Michael just stands there and tries not to drop her), they all crawl back to a massive spider-web.
Len: A great routine and you danced it beautifully. Also, you have Derek on your team.
Julianne: You guys were like the lady killers with the legs, and you have Derek on your team. Awesome!
Bruno: They will entrap you and eat you alive. And you killed that number! And Derek’s on your team!
Carrie Ann: Michael, you got in there! You didn’t make anybody look bad! And Derek’s on your team!
Judges’ total score: 36.
Host Tom Bergeron invites Michael to revel in his nines. He won’t be seeing those again. Unless he ends up on another Team Dance with Derek Hough.
Team Creepy, aware that they have no option but to lose this battle (and a member of their team), say “Fuck this shit” and decide to just have fun. They will be doing the Time Warp! Witney’s eyes glaze over. She’s never seen Rocky Horror Picture Show. Damn, I feel old.
Unlike Team Itsy Bitsy, Team Creepy has not stuck their weak link in the back because he does actually have something to offer. Tommy Chong starts the number himself, doubled over as a hybrid Riff Raff and Ringmaster as he gathers Emma. She then whips the Strong Man (Antonio), the Harlequins (Alfonso and Emma) and the Jokers (Sadie and Mark) to their places. They are members of a diabolical circus, and every pair within the group dance reflects their circus specialties. (Most notably, Antonio lifts Cheryl over his head as if she were a barbell. Twice.) It’s fun, frenetic, and the crowd loves it, but Derek Hough is not on this team.
Julianne: As a group together, you were a little out of sync. It just feels like you were missing something. Specifically, Derek Hough.
Bruno: I loved the energy and I loved the fun. You have to keep in sync. It’s too bad Derek wasn’t on your team.
Carrie Ann: As a performance, I liked this performance better because it was really unique. I feel like I’ve seen what Derek’s done before, with everybody doing exactly the same thing. But I have to score you lower because Derek’s on the other team, and that’s the rules.
Len: It was fun, it was entertaining, it was full of individual personalities. It would have been even better if Derek had been on your team.
Judges’ total score: 32.
See how that works? I really love Derek Hough and I think he’s brilliant, but I am beginning to get where all the screams of favoritism are coming from.
Having just lost the Derek Hough Appreciation Dance Competition, the members of Team Creepy are forced to trudge back to the jeopardy area to await their fates. Most of it’s just for show, and everybody knows that; nobody really expected Alfonso and Witney to be anything but safe. Sadie and Mark are safe, too, and for a moment everybody actually holds their breath. While one of the remaining two teams is done, Tom Bergeron does gently remind everybody that these were not necessarily the bottom two after all.
Did America vote for killer abs or aging charm?
I don’t think Tommy Chong was actually in the bottom two. The casualty this week, as I’ve actually already told you, is Antonio Sabato, Jr. He really, really should have showed us more of his abs. Cheryl Burke, two-time winner of this competition, is also gone for good. She’s going to dedicate the rest of her life to seeking individual stardom for herself as the newest Bachelorette, or something.
Cheryl, look very closely at Julianne’s chair in the judges’ panel. Someday, very soon, you may be missing your paycheck and begging to sit in it.